The summer holidays were just as Harry remembered them; filled with long, hot days and plenty of manual labor.
After a year of magic and the occasional danger, Harry found the atmosphere of Number Four Privet Drive to be more than a little boring. Not even Dudley and his gang gave him the same worries as they once had, not after facing Voldemort himself and coming out alive. Harry just couldn't really take two or three small humans seriously…
Where had that thought come from? Harry wondered with a frown. Sure, Dudley wasn't nearly as scary as the man (thing, came a derisive voice in the back of his head) that had killed his parents and wouldn't hesitate to kill him and yeah, neither Piers nor Denis were all that scary anymore either but, well, it wasn't like he was anything special. They were all kids, right?
"Oi!" Speaking of Dudley… "Freak, mum says that you better get a move on with weeding or you won't be getting any supper!"
Harry sighed and shook his head in a useless effort to clear it. Getting lost in thought was dangerous if he wanted to get done quickly enough. He'd already gone with breakfast and lunch and his stomach was protesting the rough treatment after months of having as much food as he wanted available. It wouldn't do to loss the weight that he'd gained from his stay at Hogwarts.
Digging his hands into the soil, Harry couldn't help but wonder about his friends. Hagrid had promised to write updates on Hope all summer and Ron and Hermione had told him that they'd write as much as they could. Yet, Harry hadn't received a letter once during the month and a half that summer had been going.
Just the year before, Harry would have taken this as a sign that he had over thought their friendship. He would have thought that maybe he wasn't that important to them after all. Now though something seemed off when he thought about their promise and the lack of letters. It just didn't seem like them to ignore him.
With another sigh, Harry finished up the weeding and moved to the shed. He still needed to repaint the fence before he could move onto his inside chores.
It was worth the Dursley's throwing a party downstairs and forgetting his birthday (as if they'd ever bothered to remember it, that snide voice that Harry wasn't sure was his said) and being locked in his room just for the reprieve from chores that if gave him. Sure, Harry knew that he would be back to work once more tomorrow but being allowed to immediately go upstairs for the night and do whatever he wanted without having to worry about time constraints? That was worth the work load he would be getting tomorrow to 'make up for lost time', as his uncle liked to say.
It would have been more worth it if there wasn't a strange…something sitting on his bed. With bat-like ears and stunningly large round green eyes, Harry couldn't decide if it was adorable or the ugliest thing he'd ever seen. So ugly it was adorable maybe? Harry shook his head, dislodging that rather rude thoughts (where had they even come from, he wondered) and focused on the staring creature. "Err-Hello?"
"Harry Potter!" the creature said in a high pitched voice that made him want to both wince and, irrationally, hug it. Where are these strange thoughts coming from? He wondered as he stamped down on that urge. "So long has Dobby wanted to meet you sir…Such an honor it is…"
"T-thank you?" Harry's voice trailed in a questioning tilt at the end. Because really, how often was it that strange creatures decided to break into your house only to fanboy at someone…wait what? Harry blinked and frowned at the thought. Just what was a fanboy? "Who are you?" Harry asked politely. Well, more politely than 'What are you?' would be.
"Dobby, sir. Dobby the house-elf," the newly named Dobby said.
"Oh," Harry said as he studied the pillowcase that the house-elf was wearing. Were pillowcases normal clothing for house-elves? He wondered. "Not to be rude or anything," he added as the voices of two unfamiliar people came from downstairs. "But this isn't the best time for a house-elf to be in my room."
He was horrified as Dobby's head bowed and the glisten of tears could be seen at the edges of his eyes. (Definitely adorable, a voice said in his head). "Not that it isn't wonderful to meet you!" Harry assured hurriedly. "But…is there something that you needed?"
"Oh yes sir," Dobby said earnestly. "Dobby has come to tell you sir…it is difficult, sir…Dobby wonders where to begin…"
"The beginning, maybe?" Harry suggested and was rewarded with wide eyes. He froze at the wide eyes and blushed at the look of awe in them. "It's just," he stuttered as his cheeks heated. "Wouldn't that make the most sense? Um, that's the way stories are usually told, right?"
"Dobby heard tell," the elf began slowly, looking more awe-inspired than before, "that Harry Potter met the Dark Lord for a second time, just weeks ago…that Harry Potter escaped again."
How had he heard that? Harry wondered as his blush increased and he nodded in confirmation. He was once again horrified as the little elf's eyes filled with tears once more. "Ah," Dobby said, dabbing his eyes. "Harry Potter is valiant and bold! He has braved so many dangers already! But Dobby has come to protect Harry Potter, to warn him, even if he does have to punish himself later…Harry Potter must not go back to Hogwarts."
Harry stared, stunned. Even that snide voice that made comments in the back of his head (my conscience maybe?) was silent and Dobby just looked back at him earnestly from his spot next to Harry's bed.
"W-what?" Harry stammered after another moment. "But I've got to go back! Term is only just a few more weeks away! You don't know what it's like here…I don't belong here! I belong at Hogwarts!"
Hogwarts, where he met his first friends, met Hope and talked with Hagrid and was able to eat as much as he wanted! Where Ron and Hermione were and the castle felt like home and hummed against his skin! He couldn't not go back!
"No, no, no," Dobby said, his ears flapping as he shook his head. "Harry Potter must stay here where he is safe! He is much too important and good to lose! If Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, he will be in mortal danger!"
"Why?" Harry asked, surprised. Surely Voldemort wouldn't be back again after last year!
"There is a plot, Harry Potter. A plot to make most terrible things happen at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry this year," Dobby whispered, trembling suddenly.
"What terrible things? Who's plotting them?" Harry asked, suddenly suspicious. Why would a house-elf come warn him of these things? Why not go to Dumbledore?
Dobby frantically shook his head, suddenly hitting himself with his small hands. "Bad Dobby! Bad Dobby!" Harry started in alarm and moved to stop the house-elf before he drew the attention of the Dursley's.
"It's not Voldemort, is it?" Harry asked in effort to regain the elf's attention. Dobby stopped hitting himself to shriek instead.
"Not the name, sir! Never the name!" the house-elf wailed loudly. He heard the voices from downstairs hush and quickly covered Dobby's mouth with his hand.
"Shh! You'll upset uncle Vernon!" he whispered harshly, his stomach churning in fear of what his uncle would do should he come up here and find them. "I won't say it again, please, just be quiet!"
Dobby hushed and nodded. Harry removed his hand in relief as the elf began to speak again, this time his voice quieter than before. "N-not He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, sir."
The elf was being completely unhelpful and nothing else he said was making any sense to Harry's growing annoyance. It seemed that Dobby was trying to do his utmost best to both warn and convince him not to return to Hogwarts, something that was definitely not going to happen. Like he was going to stay here? He'd rather face Voldemort again.
Eventually, Vernon made an appearance and Harry was only just able to hide Dobby from the man before the argument continued.
Well, at least until something the elf said caught his attention.
"How do you know that my friends haven't been writing me?" He demanded after cutting himself off from his initial response. Dobby shifted in discomfort before bring out a stack of letters.
It escalated from there and ended with Dobby escaping the room and dumping pudding onto Mr. and Mrs. Mason. The look of their faces when the owl burst in with the notice from the Ministry only darkened the already purple face of his uncle that much more.
'At least he forgot about my trunk,' Harry thought as he watched bars being added to the outside of his window the next day. He didn't know how the rather large item had been overlooked but at least he'd be able to get his homework done now that his days were freed and he'd nothing else to do.
Meeting the House-elf had answered a lot of the questions that Harry had had about his lack of letters and contact from his friends. The rather large stack of letters also answered just how many times that they had written to him and for some reason, his stomach clenched in anger that while he had thought he had been forgotten, Ron and Hermione must have thought he didn't care enough to respond to him.
Knowing Hermione, his lack of response had most likely worried her and Ron was probably beginning to think that he wasn't good enough for Harry to respond to.
So after three days locked in his room after Dobby's visit, Harry was beyond surprised to see a flying car outside his window with three familiar redheads inside.
"Ron?!" He whispered in shock. "Fred? George?"
"Hiya Harry," Ron said, grinning brightly at him from the back of the blue flying Ford Angelia.
As Harry rushed around the room packing up his trunk, Ron explained that he had been worried after Harry hadn't responded to any of his letters and that after hearing about the warning that Harry had gotten from the ministry for miss-use of magic from their dad, Ron had convinced Fred and George to help with a rescue mission. All three were eyeing the bars on his window with distaste, not that Harry could really blame them.
"Stand back," Ron told him as Harry grabbed his trunk and Hedwig's cage in preparation to leave as quickly as possible. Going by the size of the hook and the fact that it was tied to the end of the car, Harry knew that the noise of bars being ripped off the side of the house would definitely wake up his family and he wanted to be already gone before his uncle managed to get the door to his bedroom open.
Sure enough, Harry heard his uncle give a startled shout from the master bedroom a few rooms over and the large thump the signified that Dudley had been startled into rolling off the bed. Harry ignored the thundering approach of his uncle's footstep (Has this guy never heard of a diet? A voice wondered in the back of his mind) and handed over Hedwig and them his trunk to Ron before making a move to get into the car himself.
By the time he'd gotten both feet inside the car door, Harry was pleased to hear his uncle had only just managed to get the padlocks on the outside of Harry's bedroom door open. The look of pure rage on Vernon Dursley's face, purple and looking rather likely to explode, had Harry and the three Weasley's laughing all the way back to their home.
Telling the listening redhead's about Dobby hadn't gotten the reaction that Harry might have expected. Ron was convinced it was Malfoy and Fred and George were inclined to agree with him. Harry wasn't as convinced.
The way Dobby warned him struck him as odd. From what he could gather from listening to Ron and the Twins talk, house-elves had to obey their orders which were given to them by their Master yet it almost seemed as if Dobby had been avoiding saying certain things, like he couldn't say it outright.
No, he told himself firmly. You're over thinking this. It was just some stupid ploy to get you to stay away from Hogwarts this year.
Somehow, the words rang empty in his head.
"Don't worry mate," Ron assured him from the seat next to his. Hedwig's cage sat empty between them, the owl happily flying next to the car after weeks of being confined. For some reason, Harry itched to be next to her but the idea of being on a broom didn't sit well in the pit of his stomach. "Malfoy isn't going to try something like that again. I bet he'll be real surprised when you show up at the beginning of the year, too! Just imagine the look on his face!"
It was a bit funny, Harry thought as he imagine the furious and embarrassed look that would twist Malfoy's aristocratic features of the blonde's face. Harry allowed himself to giggle at the thought which soon turned into full blown laughter between himself and Ron.
All previous thoughts were completely forgotten as Harry looked out the windshield of the car to catch his first view of the Burrow. The house was an odd structure that seemed to be holding itself together on nothing as it was stacked together in a rather unstable looking way.
That wasn't what took his breath away, however. The house seemed to shimmer and glow against the sunrise and every once in awhile, the glow would flicker and become an entirely different color. It was like watching a rainbow in river form and Harry never wanted to take his eyes off it again. "Awesome," he breathed much to Ron's delight. The twins grinned at him as Fred lowered the car onto the front lawn.
They had arrived.